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Over the years I've built over a dozen unsuccessful sites. They get 10-100 visitors per day each. The topics include all kinds of random things - recipes, hiking tips, military equipment, gym bloopers, etc. I don't really need these websites anymore.

I recently launched a new business and I'm trying to figure out a Google-safe way to send all the visitors from my old websites to my new business website. While most of the visitors may not be interested in my new business, some of them may be interested and could convert to customers. I'd instantly get a few thousand new visitors to my business website.

Is there a safe way to redirect visitors from my old websites to my new website so that Google doesn't penalize me?

I've spent last couple of days reading about SEO best practices and it looks like it's very risky to 301 or even 302 redirect visitors from old sites to a new, unrelated site.

301 redirect will carry the all the associated link-juice to the new site but since my new site is unrelated to old sites, Google will penalize me for having a category mismatch. My new business has nothing to do with gym bloopers or military equipment.

I read that 302 redirect doesn't carry link juice, but after more careful investigation I found out that in some cases it actually does carry link juice the same way 301 does. (Here's a case-study about that). This method also looks unsafe.

An idea that I've is setting up a funnel page, such as "TryMyBusiness.com", then 301 redirect all old websites to this new funnel page, and then just have a banner ad with a link from "TryMyBusiness.com" to "MyBusiness.com". This however can be classified as doorway-page right? Which is prohibited by Google as well.

All these methods feel unsafe. If Google penalizes my new business website for doing the redirects then it's a dead business. Is there a safe way to just send visitors to my new business site? My gut feeling is to just let my old sites die and focus on the new business and build links and get visitors from scratch.

Thoughts?

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    If the new business is music recording, as I found in one of your comments, then can you add a new page to your old site about the "sounds of nature mixtape" and link it to a "music snippets" page buried in your new site? Even this sounds risky but probably less risky than a global 301/302 redirect. – MonkeyZeus Jul 20 '16 at 18:50
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    As a user... if I click a Google link to a relevant webpage, and it doesn't show me the content I asked for and instead goes to something completely different, I'm not going to be happy. If I can find a way, I'm going to report it as a dead link, and I'm certainly going to back right out of the site. – Someone Somewhere Jul 21 '16 at 10:40
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    wow I wish my unsuccessful projects had 100 visitors a day :O – wavemode Jul 21 '16 at 18:33
  • I wish my unsuccessful projects had 100 visitors... – kayleeFrye_onDeck Jul 22 '16 at 9:11

10 Answers 10

24

You can't redirect your old sites without losing 90% of their value and risking a penalty on your new site.

There usually isn't a huge cost to leaving old sites up and running. You could use them to advertise your new site. Put a banner about your new site on every page of your old sites.

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    Thanks for your comment. I will not risk the penalty. I also think advertising is not a good idea as it would be a link from unrelated site to my business. For example, a link from military equipment site to my business isn't a great idea. – Josh W. Jul 20 '16 at 15:48
  • Wow, they must be really unrelated. Advertising doesn't have to be all that targeted to be somewhat effective. – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 20 '16 at 16:15
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    If they are so unrelated that you think advertising is a bad idea, why do you think forcing users with a redirect is a good idea? – Tom.Bowen89 Jul 21 '16 at 9:13
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    What Tom says. Another way to look at it: even assuming all goes well, how long do you think the 10-100 visits per day will continue once there's no longer any content on the old sites to be indexed because they redirect to the new site? Multiply this time by the visits per day. Now, how much would you pay an advertiser for that many clicks to your new site on a CPC basis? How much of a discount would you want from this cost, for those to be unexpected redirections from the POV of the user instead of actual, real clicks? Is this amount of money worth the worry you've already put into it? – Steve Jessop Jul 21 '16 at 16:23
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    @JoshW. It might not be very effective, but man it's free advertising. Whoever is going to your site now, presumably, believes you to be a worthy content provider. So what's the downside? You spend a few minutes adding the ad to the existing pages and boom. Doesn't take many visitors to make it worth it, and it's way better than risking losing your existing few hundred visitors! – corsiKa Jul 21 '16 at 21:11
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First, something that's implied in other answers, but should probably be spelled out: the situation you describe is something Google actively wants to discourage -- you're not "collateral damage" in their fight against spammers, you are their intended target in their fight against irrelevant and 'deceptive' results. ('Deceptive' in the sense that you think you're clicking on a link to a page about one thing, but get taken to a page about something else entirely -- not in the 'fraudulent' or 'scammer' sense)

Because of their constant algorithm arms race, even if you find a work-around that works today, Google will probably update their system to extend the penalty to the work-around. (if the work-around exists, you won't be the only person using it, so it won't fly "under their radar")

Redirects are unlikely to help your new business. If someone clicks on a link that they think will take them to a page about "hiking tips" or "military equipment", but instead it takes them to a page about "music recording", it will often annoy them enough to leave a bad taste in their moth even if they are also interested in music recording, poisoning the well. It's not what they were looking for a the moment, so they are going to feel annoyed at you for "tricking" them, and at Google for giving a "bogus" result.

So in short: don't do it.

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    Right, clicking a Google result and then being unable to find the snippet text on the actual page is already infuriating, let alone finding completely unrelated content. – Steve Jessop Jul 21 '16 at 16:29
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    It isn't quite as bad as you make it out. Redirecting a site causes Google to drop it from the search results the next time that it is crawled. There will only be a period of a couple days where users click on something in the search results and find themselves on something completely different. Google cares more about the attempt to pass on the reputation of the old sites in an attempt to get the new site to rank better. Google considers doing so spammy, but it isn't quite such a direct hooodwinking of users. – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 21 '16 at 17:31
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    Well if you're doing 301 correctly, a user who clicks on the search result in the old site that shows interesting content, should arrive at that exact same interesting content at the new site so they should not be misled at all. If your decide you don't want to host that same interesting content anymore, the correct response is 410 GONE. Bonus: serve an HTML page explaining "Hi there, I deleted the content you are looking for, but maybe you'll be interested in my totally unrelated business here" with a link. And then measure how many of those people convert. LOL. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 2 '16 at 18:59
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Bad Idea! Never, I repeat NEVER do that.

I tried that 3 days ago and after couple of days the site to which I redirected completely lost all its rankings. Not even it was ranking on searching domain.com in Google.

All indexed pages are still there but the site lost its ranking completely. I can provide the links of the sites as proof but that's not allowed here. But trust me it's a disastrous idea.

What was affected?

  • All rankings are lost permanently temporarily.
  • All indexed pages are removed from Google

I have received an email from Google regarding the issue. The messages goes as: enter image description here

I am fixing the issue from my end. Will update the results later.

Edit 2: I have received the mail from Google after a week. The reconsideration request has been accepted in the first attempt.

What did I do before reconsideration request?

  • I removed all the ads - Pop-up Ads, Banner Ads, Text Ads - all of them.
  • Checked thoroughly if the site is being redirected to some other sites as well as any unknown referral visitors to the site coming from redirected website.
  • Checked with Google PageSpeed, GTMetrix, Pingdom, etc.
  • Submitted for reconsideration.

The reply from Google:

enter image description here

What was done after accepting the request?

  • All rankings were restored
  • All indexed pages were restored
5

301 Redirects are completely fine if they're real.

If you had an old site and then decided to move/combine it with some other related site, there's absolutely no problem putting up a 301 redirect on the old site to send users to the new site.

You should not be penalized for this in Google and if you are, they're completely reasonable about fixing it if you contact them.

However . . . if you do a bunch of them all at once or they're unrelated and you're just trying to "get traffic", yeah, you'll be slammed with the Ban Hammer.

There's nothing weird going on. They want useful search results. If that's your goal everybody is happy. If it's not, Bad Things will happen.

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "real". Do you mean from a technical standpoint (opposed to framed redirects, or meta refresh), or in the sense of redirecting to similar enough content in a new location? – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 20 '16 at 20:36
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    By "real" I mean that the redirect is being used for it's intended purpose on the web: To send the user to a resource that has been moved. If your 301 is being used to redirect traffic to a resource that would be irrelevant to the user, it's being used deceptively and Google will penalize you for it. – PushfPopf Jul 20 '16 at 20:46
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One thing that all your sites have in common is you. Why not throw a designed by link at the bottom of your site that links to your "portfolio" where your new business is prominently displayed.

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The best thing to do is not worry about the traffic to your old sites.

I had a good friend who graduated from Harvard Business. He told stories about how Harvard drummed into his head the mantra of "Know when to cut your losses." every day one way or another.

From a business perspective, this is excellent advice! It is good advice in life too!!

You are far better off making your one business site rank well on it's own and not trying any tricks or methods to capture traffic that is not purely correct for that site.

The advice not to forward traffic or create link pages or create doorway pages is sound advice.

I will add this.

Forget your old sites. While it can be hard to let go of old sites, I can tell you from experience that it can actually be a relief not to deal with them again and just let them go. If you truly do not want to maintain these sites anymore, just let them expire and forget about them. Move on. Let them go and you will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Trust me. This is the best advice anyone can give. You will be a lot happier in the end.

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Yes, sort of.

Put yourself in the visitors shoes (with google at their back) and ask how you can introduce your new content to them in a relevant way.

ie old site is about say hiking and new one is about music recording services

add content to the hiking site aimed at say hikers who like to bring their guitars along on hikes to play encouraging them to consider recording some of their performances in studio for the niche hiking market?

Obviously with branding and links (and maybe a voucher etc) for your new site.

It's harder work but google should have no problem with it unlike the clearly deceptive strategy of just using redirects.

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It does not make sense and you should not risk it. Spend some time to create content on all old websites that drive some traffic to your new website. Go for peace of mind. Content is king.

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In addition to all answers, the most importan thing is to Perform an Inbound Link Analysis and then make 301 Redirection Plan. This is the heart of your migration from an SEO standpoint.

Tip: If you can keep the same URL structure as your original website when redesigning or migrating a website, do it! It will make your life a lot easier. If the URL’s remain the same, you don’t need to issue 301’s. And for larger sites, this can save you a lot of time and pain.

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    You are recommending redirecting just a few key pages that are getting good inbound links? That could be a good strategy. Especially if there is something relevant to which to redirect them. – Stephen Ostermiller Aug 2 '16 at 9:50
  • Well, that's what I'll do. It sounds logical to me :) – Josip Ivic Aug 2 '16 at 11:59
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The problem I see is that you're "splitting the switch" trying to have a potpourri content site on a business site. Don't do that.

There's nothing wrong with a noncommercial site that has content on a wide variety of subjects. Many people's personal websites are like that, or at the extreme, Geocities or Blogspot. However these sites are not principally business/product/advertising sites.

Obviously there's nothing wrong with having a business site.

Unfortunately, when search engines didn't want the web flooded with machine generated keyword spew, this became "content marketing" and the web became flooded with cheaply written content spew.

So when you have a business site also with a bunch of unrelated articles tacked on for no apparent reason, it looks exactly like the worst form of content marketing.

So my suggestion is to have 2 sites. Let your business site focus on your business, and have a separate site for your multiple-subject potpourri. If you're trying to use this content to doorway people to your business site, don't do that. It doesn't work. Web browsers don't "push" like that, precisely because they are skeptical from so many spammers trying. The best you can hope for is they like your content, and come to like you, and become interested in what else you do.

Similarly if you have two distantly related businesses, have a website for each. Magician and electrician? 2 websites.


301 or 302 redirects are for directing users to the exact same content in a different location. They should be maintained permanently to benefit people who reached the old location via bookmarks, links from external sites, etc. Suppose you have a page on making your own soap. If you move it, use 301/302. If you don't want to host that page anymore and are removing it from the web permanently, the correct reply is "410 Gone" -- preferably with an HTML body which explains to the user that the content is gone for good and isn't coming back. Users can't read HTTP codes.

If you want to also put an ad on the 410 page, that's fine, as long as the user must click it to continue. I mean, that makes it a doorway page, but the search engine won't care since 410 tells it not to index.

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